Since their first sighting back in August by Marina residents, the goats of Fort Mason have been munching down and discovering some of SF’s oldest treasures.
“This is the smartest way for us to deal with the vegetation in these areas,” said Josh Soltero, an irrigation/grounds worker in BART’s grounds maintenance department who was keeping an eye on some 700 goats grazing near Fremont Station on a recent hot June day. The Spanish-Boer cross goats, contracted from a herding business, chomped away at the dry brush on a steep hillside, the type of terrain that can be hazardous to human groundskeepers using mowers, weed whackers and other power tools.
To help achieve this goal, goats are from Living Systems Land Management, a Coalinga-based family business owned and operated by Michael and Jan Canady. “We put the goats in a small area and do what we call a mob graze,” Jan Canady said. “With a power weed eater, you’re just cutting it down, but you have to worry about erosion, because the root is still there. The goats, they’re constantly eating wherever they’re needed, everything, until you move them somewhere else.” In Fremont, the goats had started their day on one parcel behind a fence until it was nearly bare. Some of them stood on their hind legs to nibble green leaves overhanging one side of the property (or to be handed leaves as a treat from their visitors).
These goats have been at around the Bay Area helping mow down tall portions of dry grass. Another bonus is appreciation from many neighbors in nearby residential areas, who prefer the occasional bleat of a goat to the roar of a power mower. “They come up and tell us they’re so happy we are using goats,” Soltero said, and as if on cue, a woman in a sun hat walking by the side of the field, smiled and gave a thumbs-up.
Contrary to popular culture, goats don’t really eat tin cans, Canaday said, but they’re intelligent, playful creatures who instinctively know which plants they need to eat. “The goats like to cavort, they jump and twist,” she said. True to form in Fremont, some of the fiesty ones locked horns to head butt one another, and nosed around the BART worker who offered them a green leaf.
After their Fremont assignment, the goats moved on to their next job, grazing between Lafayette and Walnut Creek stations near Highway 24. If you’re on a BART train and look up at the hills in that area, you might spot the brown-and-white spotted, lop-eared-looking four-legged firefighters that are helping BART with its broader sustainability efforts.
// Photography courtesy of BART.